Cineclick greets ‘Host’

Disaster pic's monster-sized budget the biggest by any indie producer

LONDON — Cineclick Asia has picked up foreign sales rights to the $9 million “The Host,” one of the most expensive Korean films ever made.

Pic, which starts lensing Wednesday, is a contempo creature-cum-disaster movie directed by Bong Joon-ho (“Memories of Murder”).

It’s one of the biggest budgets put together by an independent producer working without the investment, support or local distribution commitment of one of the three groups with claims to be the Korean peninsula’s equivalent of a studio.

Cineclick — itself a rarity in that it has long operated as a straight sales agent repping third-party titles rather than as the sales front end of a production shingle — has had life made easier.

The film’s producer, Chungeorahm Films, demonstrated the title’s market value at Hong Kong’s FilMart in March, when it tied up a single territory deal at $4.7 million, more than 50% of the budget. Japanese investment group Happinet Pictures chipped in a $1.5 million equity stake and a further $3.2 million as a license fee for Japanese distrib rights.

The deal underlined the strength of Japanese interest in all things Korean and the fiercely competitive nature of Japanese distribs, which for the top titles are prepared to bet big at the pre-production stage.

Earlier this year Universal Japan paid a reported $7 million for rights to romantic drama “April Snow” with TV mega-star Bae Yong-joon; Toshiba paid more than half the $6 million budget for CJ Entertainment’s revenge drama “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” which was five weeks into shooting; and Comstock paid $4 million for historical drama “The Duellists” while it was in post.

“The Host” also is a departure in genre terms. The biggest Korean titles to date have been melodramas, comedies, horror pics and, recently, actioners/war films. Monsters have yet to rule.

Bong said he aims to expand the monster genre by adding political and social elements to the story.

Bong’s human cast includes several of his regular thesps, including one of the most recognizable faces in Korean film, Song Kang-ho (“Shiri”), plus upcomer Byun Hee-bong (“Jealousy Is My Middle Name”) and local beauty Bae Du-na (“Tube”).

But the real star is likely to be the digitally generated mutant that grows silently in Seoul’s Han River until it starts attacking people. Having auditioned CGI and f/x houses from around the world, Chungeorahm and Cineclick have whittled the contenders down to two.

Cineclick will screen footage of “The Host” at the American Film Market in November.

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